Mischief Theatre – the creators of the international hit comedy The Play That Goes Wrong and BBC1 TV series The Goes Wrong Show, are back again with another hit on their hands thanks to Magic Goes Wrong which landed at Norwich Theatre direct from the West End.
Upon entry to the auditorium, you are treated to a playlist of ‘magic’ themed songs, which sets the mood for the show perfectly. I often find that pre-show playlists are underrated, because as a keen theatre-goer always in the auditorium early, I love when music sets the vibe for the show that lies ahead; bonus points for that.
As the show begins, you are introduced to a troupe of so-called magicians at the ‘Disasters In Magic Charity Fundraiser’ – an event in which the hapless gang of moderately skilled and accident-prone magicians present an evening of grand illusion and theatrical magic to raise cash for the charity, which is in memoria of those who have met ill-fate by magic. This later leads to a very clever and humorous ‘in memoriam’ scene – but explaining it would be a spoiler and make very little sense out of context!
Unfortunately, much like the title implies; things do not always go as planned for the optimistic band of magicians. As the magic turns to mayhem and the mishaps spiral out of control, so does their fundraising target.
Much of the story centres around Sophisticato (Sam Hill) who leads as ‘host’ of the show and the plot centres around him wanting to follow in his fathers footsteps as a great magician – but whether he’s got the magic touch is a whole other matter. Sam Hill brings great energy to the role, and takes quite the emotional journey, so even when going wrong you want him to do right. His team of magicians support him brilliantly, with each character being carefully constructed and having a really strong identity about them. The Blade (Keith Moriarty) stands out for their rock inspired exterior and lust for danger, but dumb and chaotic execution of magic. It proved that sometimes the simplest of gags remain among the classics. Equally, The Mind Mangler (Rory Fairbairn) is so brilliantly written and is always expertly executed. I was constantly questioning whether the audience interaction was real or part of the show!
Whilst a lot of things do indeed go wrong, there is plenty that goes right. Magic Goes Wrong has been created by Mischief Theatre with magic legends, Penn & Teller. The famous duo do not appear in the show, but you can tell their stamp of incredible magic and illusion has made its mark. In fact, it’s very easy to forget that while much is going wrong and the farcical take keeps you laughing; there is also a lot of real magic happening. There were many moments where I paused and thought ‘hang on a second – how did that just happen?!’ It was incredibly clever how the balance of real magic and ‘fake’ magic complimented each other so well and blurred the line between what caught your attention as humour, shock, and amazement.
I really loved the costume, set and lighting design too. Every element of its creativity added layers to the characters and elevated the scene. Do watch out for those lights going across the main set… they sure do provide a few extra giggles along the way!
As ever, Mischief Theatre continues to set the bar and raise it for what is possible with physical comedy in theatre. There really are dare-devil stunts, marvellous magic moments and irresistible comedy all encompassed into one show. There’s always something to look at and laugh at, and it’s the perfect antidote to reality that can appeal to all.